College of Alberta, educational workers enter formal mediation after negotiations stall



a house covered in snow: Formal mediation between the University of Alberta and its academic staff association will begin Friday.


© David Bajer/CBC
Formal mediation between the College of Alberta and its educational workers affiliation will start Friday.

Obligatory mediation between the College of Alberta and its educational workers affiliation is ready to start Friday towards the backdrop of a attainable strike.

The U of A and the Affiliation of Educational Employees of the College of Alberta (AASUA) — Canada’s largest educational workers affiliation — will start formal mediation talks on Friday. 

If mediation efforts fail, the affiliation can apply to the Alberta Labour Relations Board for a supervised strike vote, following a 14-day cooling-off interval.

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Sweeping cuts to post-secondary spending by the provincial authorities have contributed to an unprecedented wave of labour unrest amongst educational workers throughout the province, AASUA president Tim Mills mentioned Thursday. 

In January, Concordia College of Edmonton noticed Alberta’s first college strike. College on the College of Lethbridge are presently on strike after strolling off the job final week. College and administration at Mount Royal College reached an settlement in precept this week after greater than 22 months of contract negotiations triggered mediation.

“The provincial authorities is partially liable for the labour disruption we see in Lethbridge, and the uncertainty that we see right here on the U of A,” Mills mentioned in an interview.

The U of A had its provincial base working funding slashed by practically 19 per cent through the previous two years, and was the toughest hit by the United Conservative Occasion authorities’s funding cuts to Alberta’s post-secondary establishments.

The college and its educational workers affiliation have been bargaining since 2020 however have but to discover a decision after 35 formal negotiation classes. The earlier collective settlement expired on June 30, 2020.

Sticking factors embrace compensation, job safety for “very precariously employed” members and proposed adjustments to the educational pension plan, Mills mentioned.

The affiliation’s 3,780 members have gone 4 years with out a wage enhance, he mentioned.

Below the earlier collective settlement, minimal salaries for assistant lecturers began at $63,100. Professors may earn as a lot as $158,600, based on a wage schedule outlined within the earlier settlement.

The affiliation is looking for a 2.25 per cent pay enhance this July, 2.5 per cent in 2023, and one other enhance of as much as 0.5 per cent, retroactive to July 1, 2023, to be paid in February 2024.

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If the AASUA’s requires elevated compensation are met, it might price the college a further $35 million over the remaining two years of the proposed four-year collective settlement, the affiliation mentioned. 

“The employer is saying ‘no’ to a cost-of-living enhance they usually’re proposing adjustments that can find yourself gutting our advantages plan and lowering pension advantages for a few of our members,” Mills mentioned. 

“That is the gulf that now we have. We wish job safety, we wish some type of aggressive wages. And so they’re probably not serious about advancing both of these.”

On Jan. 27, the college proposed voluntary mediation. The next week, after one other failed spherical of negotiations, the affiliation as a substitute utilized for formal mediation.

Mediation dates have been scheduled for Feb. 18 and Feb. 25.

Strike ‘avoidable,’ college says 

In an announcement final week, the U of A’s bargaining committee mentioned it stays dedicated to discovering a compromise and {that a} decision “must be achievable.”

“Because the events enter into mediation, there’s a vital hole between wage proposals (0 per cent vs. 5.25 per cent), and an much more vital hole between the general compensation-related proposals,” the committee mentioned in an announcement.

“Regardless of these gaps, we’re embarking into mediation with a transparent intention to barter additional.”

In an replace posted on-line, the bargaining committee mentioned a strike shouldn’t be imminent however cautions that any labour disruption would have a big affect on campus. 

“The college has no capacity or need to ‘power’ any such motion. We consider a strike shouldn’t be in the most effective pursuits of our college students, educational and different workers, and the college – and is avoidable.” 

All lessons and analysis by AASUA staff will cease if the affiliation opts to strike. Even a strike of per week or two would require adjustments to the educational schedule, the college mentioned.

“The college stays absolutely dedicated to negotiating an settlement with AASUA that’s truthful, equitable, accountable and sustainable given the intense financial constraints the college faces. 

“The college is taking this course of severely and won’t finish mediation prematurely, recognizing that doing so would additional escalate the state of affairs in direction of labour disruption.” 

‘One thing we are able to reside with’

Mills mentioned the affiliation is ready to take a “robust stance” if the college fails to compromise.

“We’re actually hopeful that we are able to negotiate one thing,” he mentioned. “It will not be one thing that both of us will probably be pleased with, however one thing we are able to reside with and actually save the semester for our college students.”

The U of A College students’ Union is staging a march to the Alberta Legislature on Thursday to name for elevated funding from the provincial authorities.

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